Mahmoud Abbas’ Ultimatum to Israel

The Jewish state has one year to leave the "Palestinian territories” -- or else. But or else what?

In a video appearance at the UN General Assembly, Mahmoud Abbas has delivered an “ultimatum” to Israel: You have one year to leave what he calls “all the Palestinian territories,” or else. Or else what? Or else he will bring the case before the International Court of Justice, which has no power to enforce anything.

A report on this latest example of Palestinian preposterousness is here: “Israel ‘Has a Year to Withdraw From All Palestinian Territories,’ Abbas Says at UNGA,” Algemeiner, September 24, 2021:

Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly via video link on Friday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas posed an ultimatum before Israel, saying it had “one year to withdraw from all the Palestinian territories.

By “all the Palestinian territories,” Abbas means the entire West Bank, where nearly half a million Israelis now live, and East Jerusalem, where nearly a quarter million Jews live. He includes, as “Palestinian territories,” the Old City of Jerusalem, and in that Old City, the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in Judaism. He doesn’t explain how he expects Israel to uproot and move, within a year, 750,000 of its Jewish citizens from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israelis still remember the national trauma when they removed 8,500 Jews from Gaza in 2005, a trauma they do not wish to repeat.

Failing that, he said, the Authority will turn to the International Court of Justice.

That, of course, leads nowhere. Perhaps Mahmoud Abbas does not realize it, but the chief feature of the International Court of Justice is that it has no power to enforce its decisions. None. There is nothing Mahmoud Abbas can do about this. The proper reply to him is that heard most often in the schoolyard: “Oh yeah? You and what army?” And of course, his dreamy belief that the ICJ would find in favor of the Palestinians assumes that the justices of the court are willing to overlook the continued significance of the League of Nations’ Mandate for Palestine, which clearly included all of Jerusalem and of Judea and Samaria (renamed “the West Bank” by the Jordanians in 1950) in the territory assigned to the future Jewish National Home.

In a typically combative speech, Abbas accused Israel of all but destroying the two-state solution with actions he said could lead Palestinians to demand equal rights within one binational state comprising Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

Mahmoud Abbas wants the world to forget that on several occasions Israel tried to make peace with the Palestinians on the basis of a near-total Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, but both Yassir Arafat, who walked out on Ehud Barak’s offer of 95% of the West Bank in 2000,, and Mahmoud Abbas, who in 2008 walked out on Ehud Olmert’s even more generous offer of what the PA’s chief negotiator, the late Saeb Erekat, said was in total area more than the entire West Bank and Gaza; Olmert had wanted to retain 6.3% of the West Bank and in exchange was prepared to give Abbas 6.3% of Israeli territory, which meant that the Palestinians would end up with 20 square miles more than if Israel had given up all of the West Bank. In addition, Olmert promised to share ownership of Jerusalem, and to give the P.A. exclusive ownership of the Temple Mount, despite its being the holiest site in Judaism. Yet Abbas has the effrontery to claim that neither Arafat nor he, who walked out on generous offers, prevented a “two-state solution,” but that it was Israel at fault; it was Israel that, in his version of events, has come close to “destroying the two-state solution.”

The 85-year-old urged the international community to act to save the two-state formula that for decades has been the bedrock of diplomacy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

No, he’s wrong. The “bedrock of diplomacy” for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the attempt by the Palestinians to squeeze Israel back within the 1949 armistice lines, what Abba Eban called “the lines of Auschwitz,” with a nine-mile-wide waist from Qalqilya to the sea, and Israel’s refusal to yield to such an absurd proposition, which, if accepted, would mean putting Israel in such obvious peril that some Arab states, possibly supported by Iran and Turkey, would be tempted to launch an attack on Israel yet again. Any withdrawal by Israel to the 1949 armistice lines, which is what Abbas is demanding, would whet, not sate, Arab appetites.

How does Abbas think the “international community” can “save the two-state formula” if Israel chooses to reject it? Will it amass an army to force the Jewish state to surrender territory, such as the Jordan Valley, which it needs to retain if it is to have, in the words of UN Resolution 242, “secure [i.e. defensible] and recognized borders”?

The phrase “two-state solution” can apply to all sorts of possible borders, from the 1949 armistice lines that Mahmoud Abbas wants to reimpose, to the borders that the Trump peace plan envisions, with Israel retaining the Jordan Valley, all of East Jerusalem, and the major settlement blocs in the West Bank. Trump, remember, was also promoting a “two-state solution” – just not one to the liking of Mahmoud Abbas.

“The reality of one apartheid state as is happening today, our Palestinian people and the entire world will not tolerate such a situation,” Abbas said, reiterating an accusation Israel rejects.

Here we go again: Israel is “one apartheid state.” What’s he talking about? What are any of them – Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Peter Beinart, Corey Bush, Bernie Sanders, Roger Waters – talking about, when they pluck from the air that all-purpose epithet “apartheid” and affix it to the Jewish state?

Once more unto the breach, here are the facts about “apartheid” Israel:

In Israel, Arabs serve in the Knesset, sit on the Supreme Court, go abroad as ambassadors. The chairman of the largest bank in Israel, the Bank Leumi, is an Arab. Arabs and Jews work in the same offices and factories, attend universities and technical institutes together, use the same hospitals, where they are treated by both Jewish and Arab medical personnel. Jews and Arabs own restaurants and shops and high-tech companies together, play on the same sports teams, and in the same orchestras. The only difference is that Jews must, while Arabs may, serve in the IDF. What a strange form of apartheid Israel apparently practices, so different from, indeed the very opposite of, the apartheid that used to prevail in pre-Mandela South Africa.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the US and the UN, responded to Abbas’ speech on Friday afternoon, arguing it showed that the Palestinian leader was “no longer relevant.”

“It is no coincidence that 80% of Palestinians want him to leave his position,” Erdan commented. “He once offered to sue the United Kingdom over the Balfour Declaration. Today, he wants to return to the UN Partition Plan. But most important of all, he lied about the Palestinians refusal to make peace. Those who truly support peace and negotiations do not threaten delusional ultimatums from the UN platform as he did in his speech.”

Nothing will come of nothing. Abbas can issue all the ultimatums he wants, and threaten to bring his case to the ICJ, but so what? Neither he, nor anyone else, can enforce an opinion of the ICJ. Israel will continue to ignore his ludicrous threats. It will continue to move from strength to strength: its economy — especially the high-tech startups that seem to pop up every day in the Jewish state – inexorably expands. Its advances in weaponry – think only of the Iron Dome missile system, and the more recent development of an airborne laser weapon that in recent tests destroyed every one of a succession of UAVs flown at different speeds and altitudes – rival those of the U.S., China, and Russia. Only the US and China have more NASDAQ-listed companies than Israel. Only Taiwan and Japan file more patents per million of population at the US Patent Office. 

Israel’s military is the most powerful in the Middle East, and is ranked the 15th strongest in the world. Mossad agents have since 2010, beginning with the Stuxnet computer worm, been running circles around the Iranians, in a series of attacks that have slowed down its march toward a bomb. Israel is a world leader in the most important new technologies: in water use, where it has excelled in drip irrigation, desalinization, producing water out of the ambient air, and waste water recycling, and in solar energy. The Palestinians, on the other hand, have created nothing, done nothing, to earn the world’s admiration. They are leaders in exactly two areas: terrorism (the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the PFLP), and the inveiglement of donors to make sure that they, the Palestinians, as well as their grasping leaders, are kept afloat on a sea of foreign aid.

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